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How poor glucose control affects the immune system


Managing glucose levels has almost become a world-wide pastime.  Every year, more people are diagnosed with diabetes, pre-diabetes, or other conditions require that we monitor our blood sugar levels.  When your glucose—the mechanism that turns food into fuel for your body—is chronically high, you may be diagnosed with hyperglycemia.  This condition can lead to serious health problems, such as kidney disease, eye damage, neuropathy, and a multitude of cardiovascular problems.  But did you know that it can also suppress your immune system?

Our Protective Immune System

The immune system provides a natural defense against invading bacteria and viruses.  In short, we have two lines of defenses:  Innate immunity is the immediate, “generalized” mechanism that acts to guard against harmful micro-organisms.  Adaptive (acquired) immunity is a specialized, biochemical protection that develops to fight diseases.  High glucose can hinder both of these defenses.  Here’s how it works:


When a foreign bacteria or virus tries to enter our bodies, our immune systems secrete substances, such as certain cytokines, T-cells, and leucocytes, that fight off the invading organisms.  For example, if an infection develops in the bloodstream because of an open wound, our bodies send “signals” for white blood cells carrying these substances to travel to the site of infection and destroy the invader.  For example, pus is a sign that your body is fighting an infection. 


Unfortunately, too much glucose, which is derived from high carbohydrate foods such as sugar, pasta, and rice, interferes with the immune system’s routine.  For one thing, it inhibits Natural Killer Cells (NKCs), which are sent to fight disease.  It also causes an imbalance of cytokines, which are designed to tell the body there is a problem; even a minor wound that becomes infected may go unchecked and develop into a serious condition, posing a much greater threat.

High glucose levels also create an environment that actually encourages the growth of micro-organisms, which thrive in a high-sugar context.  Additionally, higher glucose levels can reduce the dilation of blood vessels, which decreases the blood flow to affected areas; moreover, it can inhibit the ability of white blood cells that do reach the site of infection. On many levels, high glucose “disarms” your body’s ability to heal; glucose management is needed to stay healthy.

If you suffer from high glucose levels, we at New City Med Plaza can help you find solutions.  Consult with our highly qualified doctors and internists in Tijuana about a treatment program that would work for you.

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